This year’s free agent class it’s all about the slot guys. This is a great thing for the Raiders for two reasons. One, because that’s what they need. They have Gareon Conley and Daryl Worley to patrol the boundaries, so they need a guy who can keep up with the speedy slot guys and maybe take over the outside corner spot when needed as well. And two, because slot guys tend to be more affordable than the every game starters on the outside.
Here are the guys the Raiders are sure to be taking a long look at this free agency.
Ronald Darby, Eagles
Darby has started in all but one game in which he’s appeared over his four years in the NFL. The problem is he has appeared in just 17 games over the past two seasons. He landed on partial season IR after the first game of 2017. Then he returned to the lineup in week ten and was a key starter in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run, including six pass breakups in their three playoff wins. Last season he was lost after week nine. Also suspect was the 2015 Bills second round pick getting traded for a third round round pick after two seasons. But the Eagles don’t seem to have any regrets about making that trade.
Darqueze Dennard, Bengals
A first round pick by the Bengals in 2014 while Paul Guenther was defensive coordiangor. Under Guenther in 2017, Dennard had his best season, playing all over the field, he appeared in all 16 games, starting six with 2 interceptions, one returned one 89 yards for a touchdown, and six passes defended. He also had a career high 83 tackles and added 2.0 sacks. Dennard had started a career-high 9 games last season before landing on injured reserve. He still matched his pass defended totals of 2017 (6) and had similar tackle numbers per game as well. Guenther may want to get ahold of the 27-year-old Dennard again to continue his career development.
Bryce Callahan, Bears
This 5-9, 188-pound slot corner has been quite impressive over the past two seasons in Chicago. He has put up two interceptions and 6 passes defended in each season and last season saw his tackle numbers jump to a career best 45. And lest you should think that was just tackling on catches he gave up, QB’s have had sub-80 passer rating when throwing to his receivers each of the past two seasons as well.
Bradley Roby, Broncos
This former first round pick has been a key part of the Broncos pass defense the past five years and has set career highs in various categories nearly every season of his 5-year career. As a rookie he put up two interceptions, 13 passes defended, and a still career best 67 tackles (65 solo). Following his second season, Roby stepped up big time in the Super Bowl, breaking up three passes. The following season, he matched a career-high 2 interceptions, but this time he returned BOTH for touchdowns. Then in 2017, he had a career-high 17 passes defended. Last season, he started a career-high 15 games and put up an interception, 12 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, and 50 combined tackles. The Raiders should take this 26-year-old away off the hands of their division rival.
Steven Nelson, Chiefs
Speaking of stealing from your division rival, Nelson quietly had a pretty good season on an otherwise shaky Chiefs’ secondary. Nelson had a career best 4 interceptions and 68 tackles while starting every game. He also had 15 pass breakups, which is one fewer than his previous career best from 2016 when he started all 15 games in which he appeared. Despite being targeted an NFL most 113 times according to Pro Football Focus, Nelson held his own, allowing just 53.1% completions and a passer rating of 76.8 in his coverage.